COVID-19 Symptoms: what are they and why should you answer screening questions honestly

Date: 10/30/2020

Presque Isle, Maine (October 30, 2020) — Screening for COVID-19 symptoms before anyone enters a facility is a key step in protecting the people who visit or work in that location.  This is particularly vital at hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

 

“We know that our screening questions can seem a bit tedious or time consuming to people. As the pandemic has evolved, the list of symptoms has lengthened and people’s patience and diligence have seemed to shorten,” says Julie Tutt, manager of infection prevention at Northern Light AR Gould Hospital.  “This makes for a bad combination, and we are seeing more and more people who declare they have no symptoms at our screening stations, but once they get to their provider’s office, they raise health concerns that include some of these very symptoms.”

 

There may be multiple reasons for this, according to Tutt.  Sometimes people are just in a hurry and are trying to get to their appointment on time, so they are trying to rush the process without actually paying attention to the symptoms. Others may be concerned that if they admit they have a symptom that they won’t get into their appointment. 

 

“While many may think it is no big deal to disregard the symptoms check during the screening process, it really IS a big deal,” stresses Tutt.  “We understand that often someone’s medical condition may lead to that person having some of the COVID-19-like symptoms.  Having symptoms won’t keep you from your appointment; however, it will allow us to triage and treat accordingly to keep that patient, other patients in the practice, and our staff as safe as possible.”

 

As we are starting to see more positive COVID-19 cases in Aroostook County and as we enter the season for other respiratory disorders as well, it is important that people know what COVID-19 symptoms are so they can self-monitor. It is also essential that they answer screening questions honestly at any buildings they are entering that are screening, particularly the hospital and providers’ offices.

 

Symptoms for COVID-19 now include:  a new or worsening cough; a fever; chills; muscle pain; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; a sore throat; loss of taste or smell; nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea; runny nose or congestion; headache; and fatigue.

 

“We encourage people to keep these symptoms in mind before they ever leave their home, whether it be for grocery shopping or to see their provider,” says Tutt. 

 

Healthcare workers are on the front lines in the battle of COVID-19.  Numbers in Maine and throughout the country show how high the incidence of positive cases is for those in the healthcare field. 

 

“If we don’t accurately know a patient coming in to see us has COVID symptoms, we cannot be properly prepared.  Yes, we have a mask and eye protection on for every patient we see, but for someone with symptoms, we may need further protection or to use a negative pressure room,” explains Renee Fournier, DO, a pediatrician at AR Gould.  “If a provider or other member of the care team gets sick, that means we are not available to treat patients for at least two weeks, meaning our practice can’t see as many patients at a time when we are needed more than ever.”

 

“We screen every single person who enters one of our facilities, whether that is an employee, a patient, a visitor, or a vendor, but that screening is only effective if people take the time to really consider the symptom list and whether or not any are applicable to them,” says Tutt.  “We know this works when done appropriately. We saw this first-hand with our employee who tested positive for COVID in July.  Because this individual was screened out and tested so promptly, exposure was limited and no other employees or residents became positive.”

 

Those with symptoms who are concerned that they could possibly have COVID-19 are encouraged to reach out to their primary care provider.  People may also visit our website at www.northernlighthealth.org/testing to arrange a test. They should be sure to select the appropriate option, symptomatic or non-symptomatic, when making the request.